Rex Ryan's obsession with Bill Belichick hasn't faded much since the Jets' former coach took over in Buffalo. Nope. Rex is just as fixated on the guy with all those Super Bowl rings as he ever was.
"You know I'm excited about this game, man. I mean, this will be great," Ryan said. "It is a personal challenge because you want to go against the very best. I'd much rather have a win against, and compete against a first ballot Hall of Fame coach in Belichick than a slappy coach. Shoot, he's gonna get what I got, and he knows it."
And thus the Super Bowl-like atmosphere for Sunday's 1 p.m. Bills-Patriots matchup at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, where long-suffering fans who have fallen hard for Ryan's flamboyant personality will be at full throat in hopes of vanquishing Belichick, Tom Brady and the mighty Patriots.
New England has commanded this rivalry like few others in the Brady-Belichick era, with the future Hall of Fame quarterback owning a 23-3 record over Buffalo. And that includes a meaningless loss at the end of last season, when Brady was taken out after the first half to rest up for what turned into a Super Bowl run.
But Ryan's Ahab-like persistence against -- and frustration with -- Belichick continues. He won four games against the Patriots during his time with the Jets, including a memorable victory in the 2010 AFC divisional playoffs when the Jets followed up a win over Peyton Manning with a stunner over Brady. But Belichick mostly crushed Ryan's soul with nine wins to go with two Super Bowl appearances and one championship in the Ryan era with the Jets.
Belichick remains mostly amused by Ryan's bluster, which included the coach's famous line to Newsday in 2010 when he said of Belichick, "As much as I respect and admire Bill Belichick, I came here to kick his [butt], and that's the truth. That's just the way it is."
Ryan enjoyed his most memorable win over Belichick two months after that all-time quote, but that was it as far as meaningful wins against his nemesis. Yet the rivalry burns just as brightly now that Ryan wears the Bills' blue and red. And the fans have responded in kind, with the team going over the 60,000 mark in season tickets for the first time and the parking lots for recreational vehicles and campers filling to capacity nearly two days before Ryan's first meeting against Belichick as the Bills' coach.
Yup. Bills fans are as excited as Ryan for this one."[Belichick] knows that I'm gonna try like hell to beat him," Ryan said. "They're going to get every single thing that I have, every single thing that my players have, and our coaches have and if they beat us, then they beat us. But we don't concede anything. We're not beat just because they get off the bus, like some teams."
No guarantees here from Ryan, who got away from making promises he couldn't keep after the 2011 season, when he realized he was putting too much pressure on his Jets' team by making Super Bowl guarantees just about any time someone asked him to. But he comes pretty close.
"I expect to win. I don't care who we play," Ryan said. "I don't care if I sound like whoever, I'm just being me. But shoot. The game's at our place on Sunday, so let's see what happens."
The Bills got the Ryan Era off to a flying start with a 27-14 win over the Colts, who came into the season as Super Bowl contenders after reaching the playoffs in each of Andrew Luck's first three seasons. Ryan's defense, his calling card as an NFL coach, put on a dazzling display against the Pro Bowl quarterback. Luck, under pressure through most of the game, was sacked twice and threw two interceptions.
But Ryan is dealing with a more complete team in the Patriots, who beat the Steelers, 28-21.
Brady worried? Nah.
"It doesn't matter to me," the quarterback said of the pregame hype that comes almost exclusively from the Buffalo side. "The games are won by what you do over the course of the week and how you go about your preparation so that you can be prepared for the game on Sunday.
[Ryan] is a great coach and he's obviously got them confident."Game on.